Europe should treat Russia as equal – Gorbachev

Mikhail Gorbachev (RIA Novosti / Vladimir Vyatkin)
First Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev has said that Europeans should stop looking down at Russia while accepting Russian natural gas deliveries.

In an interview with the French weekly Paris Match, Mikhail Gorbachev shared his views on recent political events, the economic crisis and the developments in the nuclear energy sphere, but focused on the current situation in Russia and how the rest of the world perceives this country.

Gorbachev said that Russia was still in the transition period. He said it was not easy to change the system in Russia “without serious armed clashes,” but the country was still halfway from a totalitarian state to democracy. The last Soviet leader pointed out the same old objectives for his nation – the effective and politically-active parliament, the independent courts and strict observation of the citizens’ constitutional and political rights. He said that the democracy has not yet fully established itself in Russia, but the country was slowly moving ahead.

Gorbachev also said that he supported both Vladimir Putinand Dmitry Medvedev in certain issues.

He criticized the Russian oligarchs as nouveau riches who had grabbed all wealth in the country and complained that the society still could not force those people to start investing in the national economy.

Gorbachev said that the growing pro-Soviet sentiment can be easily explained by the fact that the state bore all responsibility in the Soviet Union and citizens had a guaranteed right for education and health care, though these spheres were not on the same level with other countries. He pointed out that though 58 per cent of residents of the Russian Federation said they regretted the breakup of the Soviet Union, only 9 per cent agreed that they would like to bring USSR back.

“People have felt the taste of freedom. It is not easy to build a new system, but they started to understand,” Gorbachev said.

The former Russian leader also said that the current economic crisis meant the end of the system based on unlimited consumption and lack of attention to the social and ecological issues. He said that the criticism of Russia often voiced by Western journalists was shallow in approach.

“Many Western journalists and experts keep saying that everything is not as it should be in Russia. They do not want to see Russia as equal. Europe gladly accepts the natural gas that comes from Russia, but it does not prevent them from looking down at Russia,” Gorbachev said.

Gorbachev also called upon the governments to wrap up the nuclear energy programs and to switch to alternative energy sources. He said he applauded Germany’s move to close its nuclear power plants, but added that France was within its rights when it chose not to do so.

The first Soviet president also likened the current situation in world ecology and climate to how major world powers countered the Nazi threat in 1941 – without any trust in each other. “They came to an agreement only when Nazis were approaching Moscow. But they should have acted before. The same applies to ecology,” Gorbachev said.